The 2018 vintage of Château Lafite Rothschild marked the 150th anniversary of the Rothschild family’s acquisition of Lafite, and to celebrate this milestone the first growth has tweaked its label.
Look closely and you’ll spot the addition of a hot air balloon to the famous label; it’s a subtle twist – and something that you might miss at first glance – but it was chosen to ‘disrupt’ the original label, sketched by a duo of illustrators called Black Adder.
Lafite Rothschild chairwoman Saskia de Rothschild explains. ‘We thought it would be a good idea to imagine something floating in the sky that the women [in the foreground of the original label] could be gazing at,’ she said.
‘In 1868, hot air balloons were the absolute symbols of modernity and adventure. In 2018, we still see them fly but they have become the symbol of slowing down, of taking the time to move more steadily. With no rush. Just what we have been doing at Lafite for 150 years: steadily standing the test of time as we head towards the future.’
The initials on the balloon ‘CL’ represent 150 in roman numerals and are also placed on the neck of the bottle of the 2018 release.
The 2018 vintage has been described by the château as a ‘capricious child’ as the season started as a struggle with one of the coldest winters since 2010, followed by a showery spring and mildew pressure from May to July. Things changed in the summer, however, with hot days, cool nights, and the right sprinkling of rain with the vines developing ‘perfectly into one of the most trouble-free harvest in recent years.’
The winemaking team was able to take its time and slowly choose when to pick each plot as grapes reached their optimal ripeness. The château was surprised by the opulence of the Merlot plots which almost rivalled the Cabernets in terms of expression.
Jane Anson said the 2018 wine ‘has the precision, the freshness and the sense of effortless elegance that Lafite always conveys with lots of power and depth, deep black fruits on the nose and a mix of spices,’ and it was one of her top Pauillac 2018 wines tasted en primeur.
In a year when alcohol rose in the region, Lafite’s final blend didn’t exceed 13.3% thanks to the clayey, gravel soils of the Lafite plateau showing their capacity to regulate and provide balanced ripening conditions.
To celebrate this 150th anniversary wine Lafite will release 300 limited-edition cases containing a magnum of the 2018 vintage and a copy of the new book ‘The Almanac’ which retraces the 150 vintages of Château Lafite Rothschild.
‘We built this book to tell the story of Lafite since the Rothschild family has owned it, but also to share more stories about the life of a vintage,’ says Saskia de Rothschild. ‘We hope readers will come out of reading it with a better understanding of how a wine grows, from the soil to the vine to the bottle.’
The Almanac is released in December and the 300 limited edition cases in early 2021.